Aleksandr Lukashenko meets with Head of Russia’s Mordovia Vladimir Volkov

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Belarus and Mordovia are going to do their best to restore the pre-crisis level of mutual trade and to determine new areas of cooperation for the manufacture of high-tech competitive products. Prospects of further cooperation were discussed at the meeting of President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko and Head of the Republic of Mordovia of the Russian Federation Vladimir Volkov on 13 March.

Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Volkov touched upon the much-debated situation in Ukraine. As reported earlier, on 12 March Aleksandr Lukashenko held a session of the Security Council to discuss the start of the second phase of the snap inspection of the combat readiness of the Belarusian Armed Forces. It was noted that some changes will be made to the second phase of the inspection because of the escalation of the Ukraine crisis and the reinforcement of the Nato troops on the Belarusian border. Some Russian media outlets misquoted the words of the Belarusian President. In fact Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested involving more Russian aircraft in the exercise. However, some TV channels in Russia made it look like the Belarusian President was asking for military assistance, although such exercises are regulated by the Union State agreements and documents on the establishment and operation of the joint group of forces of Belarus and Russia

“Yesterday some Russian TV channels linked Belarus’ proposal with the situation over Crimea saying that Lukashenko got scared and asked Russia for help and protection,” the head of state said.

“Why are you doing this? Why would you misrepresent it this way?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked.

“Things are fine here. You see there is no war here, everything is calm and peaceful. However, if someone in Poland or Nato makes a move against us, we have a plan to respond to it. I offered to Russia to implement it,” the Belarusian leader said.

The development of all-round cooperation with Russian regions remains one of Belarus’ most important priorities. “Our direct contacts can be literally called the foundation of our trade and economic cooperation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to the head of state, the economies of Belarus and Mordovia have certain things in common and complement each other in many ways. “I believe our major cooperation avenues include manufacturing, agribusiness, construction industry and innovations,” the President said.

At the same time, he noted that in 2013 Belarus-Mordovia trade more than halved compared to 2012 and made up about $50 million. However, in the pre-crisis year of 2008 the figure stood at $170 million.

Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced that it is necessary to reverse the negative trends and restore the pre-crisis level of trade and economic relations. “This is our number-one task,” the President said.

Belarus can offer a great variety of vehicles, road construction machines, farm machinery, passenger vehicles, and municipal vehicles to Mordovian partners. The partners might make use of mutually acceptable financial instruments and manufacturing cooperation.

The head of state emphasized that Mordovia, just like Belarus, has a well-developed manufacturing industry, which serves as a great precondition to promote cooperation. In fact, as early as 2007, an assembly plant to produce Belarus tractors was set up at Sarex, one of Mordovia’s flagship companies. However, the output has been contracting in the recent years. “We should come to grips with this situation. It is important to find the solutions that would suit the interests of both Mordovia and Belarus. Of course, we should try more projects,” Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced.

“While studying new cooperation forms involving sci-tech and human potential, we need to expand cooperation between universities and research centers,” the President said.

Another promising cooperation avenue is agriculture, the Belarusian head of state said. This sector has been developing vigorously in Belarus and Mordovia. The Belarusian President believes that Belarus and Mordovia would benefit from exchanging cutting-edge technologies and expanding contacts between their scientific communities. Belarus is ready to share its expertise and knowledge in cattle breeding, construction of vegetable storages, milk processing factories, and dairy farms.
As is known, Minsk will host the ice hockey world championship in May 2014, while Mordovia is gearing up for the football world championship that will take place in 2018. Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that Mordovia could use the experience of Belarusian construction workers. Belarus also produces building materials, elevators and is ready to meet Mordovia’s construction need

Aleksandr Lukashenko also touched upon humanitarian contacts. “You are not strangers to us. We have common cultural and historic background,” the head of state said. He noted that the anniversary medals “70years since the liberation of the Republic of Belarus from the Nazi invaders” will be awarded to over 120 residents of Mordovia who took part in the liberation of Belarus.

The President emphasized that Belarus will consider all the suggestions and proposals of Mordovia and will try to reach concrete agreements in order to expand mutually beneficial cooperation with Mordovia.

Vladimir Volkov, for his part, pointed out the importance of cooperation between Mordovia and Belarus. He agreed with Aleksandr Lukashenko that the economies of Belarus and Mordovia are complementary. In his words, Belarus accounts for 45% of Mordovia’s export to the CIS.

Vladimir Volkov said that Belarusian equipment is vigorously used for agricultural purposes in Mordovia. For example, Belarus produced nearly a half of all tractors used in the republic. According to the official, Belarusian tractors and harvesters have very high quality.

Vladimir Volkov also said that Mordovia is interested in Belarus’ experience in the development of agriculture, construction of agrotowns.

“Indeed, we need to make serious progress because $50 million worth of bilateral trade is not enough. We will develop a comprehensive action plan. We need to use both the Belarusian and Mordovian experience,” Vice Premier Milhail Rusy said.

The meeting also focused on such promising cooperation areas as agriculture, medicine, science and education, supplied of Belarusian food, industrial products, etc.

“I would like us to work hard in this direction because Mordovia is a strong republic of Russia as far as the manufacturing sector and agriculture are concerned. We need to at least restore the level we used to have once,” the Belarusian President stressed.